VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – New money meant to help parents pay for childcare — potentially hundreds of dollar per month — is going unclaimed by many daycares in BC.
As of late last month, almost half of eligible operators had not opted into the $3-billion provincial program that offers up to $350 per space, per month to childcare providers with the savings to be passed on to parents.
“I’m absolutely not surprised in the slightest,” says Suzanne Logan, owner and operator of the two Bright Beginnings Infant/Child Care locations in Coquitlam.
Numbers released today by the province suggest a little over 25,300 of the approximately 49,100 eligible spaces have been approved.
“This means parents have already begun benefiting from lower child care fees, with even more families expected to benefit as April applications continue to be processed and approved,” reads the joint statement from the minister of children and family development and the minister of state for child care.
“The way that this program was rolled out, it left a lot of us blindsided by so many questions that we didn’t get answers to,” Logan tells NEWS 1130.
“I’d love nothing more than to opt into this program, but not the way things are looking right now. I have no clarity and I am absolutely not signing my name onto a contract when I don’t have answers to my questions.”
One of Logan’s main concerns is the timing of payments from the provincial government.
“I’m not guaranteed to get that money by the first of the month. Nowhere does it state that. They’ve said it will be there between one and three business days but that doesn’t leave me with real security. I have rent and insurance to pay. The way I operate my business, all of the parent cheques come out on the first so it gives me no financial security,” she says, explaining that her business runs on very tight margins.
“Say the [provincial] money doesn’t come in until the sixth. Do you think my landlords are going to be okay with waiting until the sixth? Absolutely not.”
NEWS 1130 asked Minister of State for Childcare Katrina Chen if that the number of childcare spaces not spoken for concerns her.
“In terms of the number of spaces, you’re looking at 40,000 out of 50,000. We’re pretty excited about this plan and we want to contine to engage with providers,” she responded.
Chen says she expects providers will continue to apply for the program, but more work needs to be done.
For her part, Logan is concerned about what she feels would be lack of financial control over her own business if she opts into the fee reduction program.
“We need to ask permission prior to increasing rates. Say my husband breaks his back, gas prices skyrocket, I need to replace the playground or licensing rules change and we need to switch over to different equipment — I need to be able to control my own business so I can accommodate those kinds of things.”
However, Logan believes there is an easy fix for the concerns being raised.
“Consult with us. I don’t know who they’ve consulted with in terms of private operators, but nobody that I’ve spoken to — and I’ve hosted meetings with tons of providers — has been consulted in the slightest. We found out the same time as parents and families that this program was going into effect.”
She fears her business would go under if she signed on to the program as it stands now.
“There’s nothing more I want than to drop my fees and jump into a program like this. This is the first time we in childcare have ever seen any kind of money coming at us. It’s a wonderful thing and we should be celebrating but the way it’s going down is super sad.”
Logan says she has the support of families who use her daycare services but admits there are not a lot of options for many parents competing for a limited number of spaces available in communities.
“I have embryos on my wait list. It’s really rough out there for after school care and infant toddler care. They have nowhere to go even if they are not happy their daycare is not opting in.”